Leading pioneer of Israel’s cinema culture dies at 90

Lia van Leer’s legacy, for which she won the Israel Prize in 2004, includes the founding of the cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, as well as the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

Israel lost a cinematic pioneer on Saturday with the death of Lia van Leer at the age of 90. Van Leer founded the Cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, launched the Jerusalem Film Festival, and never stopped her efforts to promote local cinema.

Only about a month ago she was a guest at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival, where she complained of feeling unwell. Van Leer received medical treatment during her visit to the German capital, and was later hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem upon her return to Israel, where she died.http://www.sizedoesntmatter.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

Lia Greenberg moved to the British Mandate of Palestine from Romania in 1940 and enrolled in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She later met Wim van Leer, a Dutch volunteer pilot, who had an affinity for cinema.

The couple wed in 1952 and moved to Haifa, where they screened films they purchased. The private screenings became popular enough to expand into a confederation of film clubs around the country. Van Leer formed the Israeli Film Archive in 1960 and led the effort to build the Cinematheques in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem in the 1970s.

Van Leer was also responsible for the establishment of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, a research institute which also works to advance an understanding between Israelis and Arabs.

Van Leer’s vigorous work on behalf of Israel’s film scene continued with the establishment in 1984 of the Jerusalem International Film Festival. For her many achievements, van Leer received a lifetime achievement award from the Israeli Academy of Film and Television in 1998. Six years later, she was awarded the Israel Prize for her life’s work. She also received a special award from the Berlinale in the German capital.

After her husband’s death in 1991, van Leer continued promoting the local film industry. Despite mounting health problems, she attended virtually every important film event in Israel. A documentary film about her was screened on Channel 10 three years ago.

“I knew she was in the hospital and I visited her there, but it’s a shock and a great loss to Israeli cinema,” said Alon Garbuz, director of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. “She was the mother of the cinematheques. I have known her since 1973 when she was part of the team that founded the cinematheque; a gracious woman, 50 years old, tall, beautiful, and very impressive. The relationship became personal as time went by. She told me about her life and I discovered that she had a sophisticated sense of humor. She was present during the first five days of the Berlin Festival before being hospitalized,” he added.

“Lia was the pioneer of Israel’s film culture, and continued to be active until her final day, working out of a love of cinema and love of people, for the benefit of the film culture in Jerusalem, and Israel, and around the world,” said Noa Regev, CEO of Jerusalem’s Cinematheque. “She will be sorely missed as a woman who brought inspiration and hope to my life. She will be missed by all of us as a woman of culture who led and encouraged film in Israel for decades.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also expressed his sadness at van Leer’s passing. “Lia van Leer was the queen of quality Israeli cinema,” he said. “We remember Lia from the days of the establishment of the Cinematheque and the Van Leer Institute. She believed in Israeli cinema, as a factory that expresses all the faces of Israel.

“She saw cinema as an unparalleled tool in creating dialogue. The world of Israeli culture, and Jerusalemite culture specifically, owe Lia a great debt of gratitude, and it is difficult to imagine them without her. She will be missed by all those who love culture, and those who love Jerusalem, wherever they may be.”

:: YNet